Concert etiquette

I am a classically-trained musician.

I hate the custom of not clapping between movements of classical works (regardless of the ensemble performing them) and I think we should go back to the old way (which, from what I understand, was changed by Mahler).

But people, when you’re in the audience at a formal performance, be quiet.

At the beginning of every school concert that I’m the teacher for, I make an announcement explaining that it’s hurtful to the children when the audience talks, because they think the audience isn’t listening. And it’s distracting — playing an instrument takes a lot of concentration.

These things are all true, and explaining them has helped the noise level.

For the performances I run, the songs are between 10 seconds and 3 minutes. It’s really and truly not that hard to be quiet for that long. Really.

When The Kid was younger, he could sit quietly through the first half of a formal performance. (We haven’t been to one recently.) We went to see the Phoenix Symphony once. We went to see The Tall Daddy perform quite a few times. We went to other performances as well. Often, there were adults sitting near us who were not as well-behaved as my two- or three- or four-year-old.

Just stop talking.

There are announcements at the front end of performances to turn cell phones off (“vibrate” still makes noise!) but we’re not told to be quiet and apparently need to be.

Whether the performance is young kids, teens, adults, music, theatre, dance—be quiet.

Respect the performers.

It’s hard. No, not hard to be quiet—hard to perform. A lot of work to have the skill to have something worth presenting to an audience. It’s scary to stand or sit on a stage in front of people.

Due to the acoustics in the space I most recently performed in, from the stage, we could pretty clearly hear people whispering on the balcony. It was maddening and distracting.

Not interested in the performance? Daydream. Without your phone, and without sharing those dreams until intermission.

It’s not a sporting event. It’s not a band in a bar or ambient music at a restaurant. Different events call for different behavior. Adjust accordingly.

[curtain closes; you can talk now]

0 thoughts on “Concert etiquette”

  1. So, quick etiquette question. If your pogoing around the mosh pit at a classical music concert and accidentally smash someone’s foot or you inadvertently catch someone with an elbow, what’s the proper way to apologize without talking? A head nod? Some sort of sign language? Or is minor bodily harm just one of the identified and accepted dangers of moshing in the classical music scene?

    -Asking for a friend


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